Director’s Brief: Privacy Toolkit

How do we as digital citizens maintain an active online presence without severely compromising our right to privacy?  What does our right to privacy actually guarantee?  There are no simple answers to these questions however, my proposed library privacy toolkit seeks to tackle those questions at both the institutional and service levels. Libraries deal in information.  At the simplest, ensuring some degree of digital privacy is an effort in safeguarding freedom of information–to seek information without fear of reprisal or consequence.  This ranges from the innocuous but irksome user data collection resulting in targeted ads to more serious and complex issues of freedom of expression.  This toolkit offers some general suggestions and tools to get library staff and patrons in the habit of assessing and owning their digital footprint.  One of my favorite aspects of the toolkit are the Chrome extensions that will be installed on all public workstations.  These include a service called “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read.”  When a user unthinkingly clicks through Terms of Service (ToS), she may in fact be sacrificing her privacy.  By way of example, I recently submitted a review of cat food to Amazon.  Spoiler alert, they don’t like it.  Simply out of curiosity, I ran a ToSDR search and received the following information:

Bummer.  But with a quick click, I have a highly compact and readable version of the ToS that I would not have read otherwise.  The idea behind this toolkit is to keep library staff and patrons aware, but not unduly burden them with privacy concerns.  Rather, this toolkit is intended to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their privacy, taking into account that privacy is not always black or white.  In this instance, someone may have something to gain from knowing that my cats hate their new food, even if that costs me another month of embarrassing, targeted cat product ads.

Please see my  Director’s Brief for additional details.  Perhaps it inspires you to incorporate some of these tools into your own routine!

4 Comments

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4 Responses to Director’s Brief: Privacy Toolkit

  1. Profile photo of Gina Martinez

    What a great idea and topic! I love that you included the screenshot of the Amazon info. Additionally, great reasons and insight as to why you would recommend Google Chrome, DuckDuckGo, and the other options. I had no idea that a TOSDR even existed, and I must admit that I am one of those people who does not full read the terms of service for everything. Nice job.

    • Profile photo of Katy Go

      Thank you so much! It’s tough to think about for many of us and I think we tend to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to privacy. That’s what happens every time we blow through terms of service or ignore the little red X in the upper left corner of the browser, indicating we’ve veered into potentially unsecured territory. To be clear, I’m also guilty of these behaviors. If we can at the very least get out of the habit of willful ignorance, even if we don’t always act, I think we’re all better off. It can be as simple as setting up two-step authentication on our accounts or occasionally reviewing our activity logs.

  2. Profile photo of Carla

    Katy, this is a great, and always timely, topic!
    I am another one of those people who do not read the entire service terms for everything…so I didn’t know a TOSDR existed, either. I believe these companies make the ToS extremely burdensome and full of legalese so that people will just click the “I agree” button in order to get to where they want to go, and we do!
    I look forward to employing some of these recommendations 🙂 Great job!

  3. Lori Broger-Mackey

    Very good points, especially in light of the Congressional giveaway of our right to privacy. Also learned about ToSDR!

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